This bike isn’t like most folding bikes. On first glance, it looks similar to the standard 20-inch-wheeled folder seen on the streets and public transportation in every city. Closer inspection reveals some standout features: disc brakes, high-end Schwalbe road tires, and an 18-speed drivetrain with gearing suited to spirited riding.
The ease with which the Formula folds—a trait of the highest importance—reflects well on Dahon’s three decades of folder manufacturing experience. Within a few attempts I had the Formula folded up in under a minute. A small magnetic clasp keeps the bike closed when carrying it, and when closed, it supports itself upright. High marks all around, particularly for the simple and sturdy metal folding pedals.
Dahon designed the Formula for riders “with tougher commutes that demand speed, portability and endurance.” Claiming to fit riders from 4-foot-8 to 6-foot-4, the handlebar and seat height adjust easily with quick-release levers. I found the handlebar height adjustment particularly useful—slide it up for comfort and a heads-up position for short trips, drop it down for more speed and leverage on longer rides. The frame has mounting points for a rack and fenders, and Dahon sells versions of each designed specifically for 20-inch wheels.Tweet
As trail helmets continue to evolve, they seem to get more expensive. Not so with this new helmet from Bell, which hits a great price point while only losing a few features from its more expensive big brother, the Super.Tweet
Jamis makes 40(!) different drop-bar bike models, and the Quest may be my favorite. It has mounts for fenders and a rear rack, room for 32mm tires (28mm with fenders) and geometry that is sporty but still comfortable and stable. The drivetrain is all reliable Shimano, mostly from the 105 group, matched up to a Ritchey cockpit and wheels. All proven stuff.
Trek refers to the Mountain Train 206 as a “pedal trailer,” and that may be one of the more apt descriptions for this type of kid-hauling device I’ve heard. Whatever you call them, these attachments are great equalizers, allowing young kids to keep up with adults while still contributing to forward propulsion.
The Mountain Train 206 gets it name from the wheel size (20 inches) and the gearing (six speeds). The beefy steel frame has multiple mounting points for the handlebar stem and an extra-long seatpost, allowing a lot of adjustability. I was able to fit kids from age four to almost nine comfortably.Tweet
Sometimes all the shiny new bikes get all the attention around the office, pushing less flashy stuff into hidden corners of my desk. I pulled these two items out recently and think they deserve so attention, too.Tweet
Xtracycle is largely responsible for the blossoming of the longtail cargo bike market in the United States. In the late 1990s, Xtracycle was thinking big thoughts about what widespread acceptance of the cargo bike could do for American transportation infrastructure. This led to the FreeRadical, a bolt-on rear frame extension that turned many an unused bike into an incredibly practical cargo bike. Since then, the longtail has been in continuous development, with a handful of companies using the Xtracycle LT open standard as the basis for complete cargo bikes.
The idea of a complete bike has always been part of the plan at Xtracycle, but until the EdgeRunner, all complete Xtracycles just used the bolt-on FreeRadical extension. But a purpose-built, one-piece frame is really the best way to go for a heavy-duty cargo bike. While Xtracycle wasn’t quick to come to market with one, the EdgeRunner was worth the wait.Tweet
We got a box of Levi’s Commuter gear in recently, and while some of the pants fit, I’ve come to terms with the fact that my 40 year old self isn’t of the generation that gets along with skinny, tapered jeans. Luckily in the same box were two Hooded Trucker jackets.
Not that I’ve spent a lot of time around truck stops, but I don’t recall a lot of truckers wearing jackets like this, but maybe the hipsters are moving from wanna-be lumberjack to wanna-be trucker. Wanna-be or not, this is a good looking jacket, cut nicely for riding and standing around, with some very discrete features that work well for riding.Tweet
It is not that often I get excited by shirts, but over the last months, I’ve been wearing three that deserve some attention.
First, this short-sleeved Zoic Nirvana. While it is classified as a jersey on Zoic’s website, it looks and wears like a favorite button-up. A single large zip rear pocket can carry supplies, and a mesh vent offers some ventilation.
The cut is loose without being baggy, and the poly/nylon fabric dries quickly and breaths well. The front is a basic button closure, no extra zippers or do-dads to annoy.
The zipper in the rear pocket can be uncomfortable with a heavy hydration pack, and the loose cut makes carrying anything heavier than a pair of gloves and an energy bar a floppy situation. But those small gripes aside, when it gets really hot, the loose fit and slight seer-sucker style fabric pucker makes this much, much more comfortable than a tight lycra jersey. At $75, this isn’t a cheap piece, but I’ve certainly gotten a lot of use out of it. Available in three plaid and three solid colors, and in a zipper front closure.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Twin Horizon flannel. Since cyclists aren’t lumber jacks, (we just like to dress like them), Twin Horizon has this slim fit heavy cotton flannel to keep things looking classy and comfortable on the bike.
This is a fall/spring shirt, and the heavy fabric is warm and comfortable. The 100 percent cotton material is soft and reassuring in a world full of synthetics. Sleeves are just the right length and the back is long enough to cover the crack without looking out of place. Tiny armpit vents may or may not do something for ventilation, but they aren’t noticeable anyway, so whatever. My only complaint is a tiny bit of tightness around the shoulders, which is being addressed in the newest shipment of shirts with gussets at the shoulders. Shirts are made in China, designed by an expatriate New Jerseyite.
The standout feature is a small button flap pocket on the lower right rear of the shirt, the perfect spot to stash a phone while riding, especially if your pants are too tight to fit your iPhone. The next production run should be up online at $56 plus shipping. There you can also check out Twin Horizon’s collection of screen printed t-shirts.
Last, and nowhere near the least, is this AeroTech Designs commuter shirt. Actually, as per the AeroTech website, the complete name is “Men’s Urban Pedal Pushers UPF 50+ Commuter Dress Shirt”, but let’s not be scared off by that. Aero Tech manufactures men’s and women’s (and kids) clothing just a few miles from our office, including an impressive selection of Big and Tall sizes.
Made from a nylon and recycled polyester microfiber, the material has bit of stretch, and combined with an loose fit, makes for a very comfortable and unrestrictive shirt. Most of the features are similar to travel shirts (back vent, buttoned flap to secure rolled up sleeves, chest pockets) but adds a small, zippered back pocket. Choose from three subdued plaids, either black, grey or blue.
If I was going to go on an extended tour, this shirt would be the first in my bag. It is light enough for hot days, and the SPF50 treatment keeps my Irish complexion in its usual state of pale. The DWR treatment keeps the shirt clean, and it dries very quickly when wet from sweat, rain, or washing. It seems impervious to wrinkles, and is nice enough looking for wear almost anywhere on or off the bike. I could do without the zippers on the chest pockets, but that is a wee little complaint in an overall super useful and flexible garment. Also available in women’s sizes.
To paraphrase a famous Army cadence:
“I wanna be an Blackburn ranger / I wanna live the life of adventure”
Sponsorships for the non-racers out there can be rare. Blackburn is stepping up into that gap and offering support to the adventures out there with the Ranger brand ambassador program.
The main criteria for Ranger-hood is a commitment to ride either the Pacific Coast bicycle route or the Great Divide mountain bike route. Of course, Rangers will be responsible to share their adventures via the various social media platforms. In return Blackburn will outfit Rangers with Blackburn gear (including prototypes!) and a small travel stipend to help defray the cost of your adventurous undertaking.
Also in the perks category: Ranger Camp at the Whiskey Off-Road in Prescott, Arizona, paid for by Blackburn. I don’t know about you, but I’d be down with missing out on some spring showers to hang out in Arizona April 25-27. The application process involves submitting a short essay, a few photographs and uploading a short video to YouTube. Best get busy!Tweet
Bern helmets have become very popular for riders looking for protection without the racy look of the average bike helmet. So it comes as a surprise that the Allston is its first bike-specific helmet; the other models are all multi-sport helmets that are just as often found at the ski slopes as on city streets.Tweet
Integrated shift/brake levers have been around for a long time now, but they aren’t getting any cheaper. As more people take up racing cyclocross, it has become obvious these shifters don’t like the inevitable exposure to sand, mud, and power washers. And if you race long enough, one of your crashes are going to damage those expensive shifters hanging off the front of your bars.
That’s where Retroshift comes in. Taking off-the-shelf brake levers and grafting a modern version of the thumbshifter to the front, Retroshift created a durable and relatively inexpensive shifting alternative.Tweet
For more than a decade Jeff Jones has been producing his 45-degree sweep bars. In that time, they have always been a multi-piece affair with the grip area welded to the crossbar. After many iterations, including some sold under the Titec brand, Jones has a new one-piece bar, the Bend H-bar.
You do lose out on the multiple hand postions of the Loop bar, and it is available only in the 660mm width for now, no 710mm yet. Personally I find that alt-bars like this ride wider than a standard bend bar, so I’m happy on the 660s. Normally I feel weird on anything narrower than 720mm with standard bars.Tweet
By Eric McKeegan
Gazelle is pretty succinct in describing this bike, touting it as the “ultimate family bicycle.” The $2,800 Cabby is a modern take on the wooden box bikes common in the streets of Amsterdam or Copenhagen. My hometown is far different—let’s see how it fared on the hilly and narrow streets I deal with.
First off, this is not a small bike. The wheelbase is huge, and the front wheel, steered with a linkage rod from handlebar to fork, seems very far away at first. Rather than the more common wooden box and steel frame, the Cabby uses aluminum for the frame and heavy-duty vinyl for the cargo box. The aluminum frame saves weight and resists corrosion, and the metal-framed cloth box folds up to fit through doorways. The box is also easily removable for storage.
Every component is selected for practicality: maintenance-free drum brakes, dynamo front light, and an internal 7-speed hub for gearing. A full chain case and skirt guard keep your clothes clean, and the step-through frame makes it easy to dismount or steady the bike when you push it off the center stand. The simple rear wheel lock is perfect for those quick stops when you don’t want to find a suitable object for locking up.
The linkage steering and long wheelbase take some getting used to at first. Low-speed handling can be tricky for the first few rides; I’d recommend some non-kid cargo and an empty parking for a first attempt. Once above walking speed, the Cabby actually feels sporty, at least until the first serious climb. That long wheelbase pays dividends in stability, and swoopy turns, even with two kids onboard, are instinctive and enjoyable.
Once I got the hang of low-speed steering and remembering that the front wheel wasn’t directly below the handlebars, I was very happy with how the bike handled almost every situation, be it low-speed U-turns, dodging potholes, or taking my place in traffic.
The reason I stuck “almost” in that last sentence? Hills. I was strong enough to muscle up just about every hill in town, but the gearing was too steep for my baby mamma. Standing up to climb helped things, but installing a smaller chainring would be the way to go for me. Unfortunately the stock chainring is permanently affixed to the crank. Nothing a trip to your friendly neighborhood bike shop (and some money)can’t fix, but that’s a bummer for a bike at this price.
That was a very minor “almost”—there is also a major one, the brakes. On short trips in my flat neighborhood, the brakes were acceptable, wet or dry. But my first trip down a steep hill had me almost pulling a Fred Flintstone, with levers pulled to the bar and the bike barely slowing. These Shimano roller brakes are not known for their stopping power, and the huge run of cable to the front wheel creates a lot of flex, further weakening them. Swap- ping to compressionless housing would help, but not enough to really make a difference for me. It is unfortunate the fork doesn’t have mounts for a disc brake (or better yet, a disc brake stock). I’ve noticed a lot of Dutch bikes are not equipped with powerful brakes, which is O.K. for flatter areas. I was fine on most of my rides, but if I wanted to get out of my neighborhood, steep hills are a fact of life.
The little bench has three shoulder harnesses; the middle one is used when carrying a single kid to keep the load balanced. The seat is barely padded, so I needed to add some cushions on longer rides—my kids inherited my bony behind. There was plenty of additional room in the box for book bags, groceries, or a big picnic, and the bench comes out for extra cargo space.
The folding box came in handy when running multiple errands. I could pull out the kids, pull the bench, and fold up the box with whatever cargo was inside. A U-lock through the exposed frame corners secured the goods from prying eyes and fingers. The box’s 165lb. capacity was more than adequate for whatever I managed to shove in there.
There are some very practical accessories available for the Cabby, including a rain canopy for the kids, a cover for cargo use, and mounts for an infant seat.
This is a very well-thought-out bike, and one of the few (if not the only) box-style cargo bike that will fit through a 28-inch door. My kids loved it, and my wife and I like riding it. The gearing issue was a minor one, but the brakes are a deal-breaker for me. If your town looks more like a pancake than an EKG read-out, this would be a great family bike.Tweet
By Eric McKeegan
Kona is well known for burly mountain bikes, but it would not be wise to pigeonhole them as just an off road bike company. With the recent release of Kona’s 2014 bikes, the pavement side of the line-up deserves as much attention as the dirt bikes.
Kona’s endurance road bikes, Zone, need to be inspected closely to understand what makes them standout in the crowd. All three models feature fender mounts, long reach brakes for tires up to 32mm(!) and carbon forks
The basic Zone model has an aluminum frame; the Zone One and Two have a carbon fiber frame. Geometry is relaxed without being anything like casual. These look like fast, comfortable bikes capable of long days on bad roads. Prices are $1,500 for the mostly Shimano 105 Zone, $2,900 for the also 105 equipped Zone One, and $3,900 for the Ultegra-level Zone One.
Steel is still a popular frame material at Kona, and the as evidenced by the Honky Tonk and Paddy Wagon. The Honky Tonk is a semi compact, but still traditional Reynolds 520 butted steel road bike, with similar tire clearance as the Zone models. A blend of Sora and Tiagra drivetrain parts and Conti Ultra Sport Tires round out the $1,100 package .
Those looking to keep it simple can have their wish on the $750 Paddy Wagon. Similar frame and clearances as the Honky Tonk, but with track ends and one gear. The Paddy Wagon comes stock with a flip-flop hub with fixed and freewheel options in a 42-16 ratio.
Cyclocross is nothing new for Kona. Entering the wee little cyclocross market in 1997, Kona now makes four models, all with disc brakes for 2014. The Jake model is probably most interesting to our readers, with its fender and rack mounts and wide range compact double gearing. While it may be able to play the part of a practical mount, it has a racing pedigree at heart. A Tiagra drivetrain, Tektro mechanical discs and a host of sturdy parts are reasonably priced at $1,200.
On the touring end of the spectrum, the Rove adventure bike returns mostly unchanged for 2014, and the fully outfitted Sutra touring bike now uses the same frame as the Rove.
Those looking for something lighter than the sturdy and hefty Rove frame can throw down for a Rove in titanium flavor. It’s a roll-your-own model, however, since it’s only available as a frame. Built in the U.S.A. by Lynskey, pricing isn’t set yet, but somewhere around $2,000 isn’t going to be far off.
The Ute cargo longtail is still going strong, but the little brother MinUte seems to be gone for 2014. The Ute is still sturdy and practical, and well appointed at $1,300. That buys you two big bags, a center stand and steering stabilizer.
There is a host of 700c commuter bikes from $500 to $1,000, and even a kids’ cyclocross bike, the $850 Jake 24. All in all, it seems Kona is offering a simplified road line up that deserves a solid look from fans of practical and fun bikes.
By Eric McKeegan
Thinking more about fast group rides, maybe a bit of racing, or even some light touring? Let’s take a look at the Secteur, which is the aluminum version of Specialized’s Paris Roubaix-winning (and creatively named) “Roubaix.”
Don’t let the race pedigree fool you—the Secteur is set up to be friendly for those of us without “Eye of the Tiger” playing on repeat in our heads. Designed to be comfortable and easy to ride, Specialized created a good old-fashioned all around road bike that isn’t at all old technology.
The frame is a modern hydroformed aluminum unit, the fork the now de rigueur carbon fiber. Both are equipped with Zertz inserts, a vibration-reducing elastomer in the fork legs and seat stays to help keep rough roads from ruining the ride. Its geometry numbers are more relaxed than Specialized’s more race-oriented frames, with a taller head- tube, longer chainstays, slacker head angle, and lower bottom bracket than the similarly priced but more racy Allez. What does that all mean for the ride? Read on, reader.
My first ride on the bike was a commute home, which starts with four miles of slight downhill. It’s been awhile since I’ve been on a real skinny-tired road bike, and cranking out the miles in the big ring was a welcome change from my often slow slog home on various more practical bikes. This “fast” trend continued throughout the review period.
I mostly rode the Secteur for training for a mountain bike stage race, and it was outstanding in this regard. The ride is fast and efficient-feeling, but not so hard-edged that I avoided the rough roads I prefer. It was more nervous than I’d like on dirt roads, but everywhere else the bike was a fine balance of stability and responsiveness. The frame is stiffer than I’m used to, which led me to attack hills with more gusto than normal, but the Zertz are effective in taking the edge off rough roads, not quite as comfortable as some of the better steel frames I’ve ridden, but much, much better than most aluminum bikes.
I requested the model with a Shimano 105 compact double drivetrain, as I’ve found the gearing range to work well for my local terrain and reasonably fit self. Those looking to take advantage of the rear rack mounts, or who live in areas with sustained steep climbing, might be better off with the wide range SRAM Apex set-up or one of the triple-chainring options.
Three Specialized-branded components stood out enough to warrant mention. The Espoir Sport 25mm tires provided a smooth ride and great puncture resistance. No flats and little wear in a few thousand miles. The Comp handlebar has a great bend and was easy to set up. Finally, the Riva saddle was comfortable enough for a double century, but I’m sure the skinny 27.2mm seatpost helped here too; the bit of flex took the edge off.
The seatpost was a two-bolt set-up, making it easy to adjust the angle, but one of the bolts is only accessible through a hole in the saddle. Fortunately, the stock saddle is pretty swell, but installing a different non-holey saddle would make it very difficult to use the saddle clamp. No fender mounts meant fender options were limited, although a set of SKS Raceblade Long fenders (reviewed next issue) worked quite well. I figure if you are going to install rack mounts you might as well put fender mounts on there, too. I’d also love to be able to run 28mm tires and fenders; this only works with mid-reach road brakes, which this bike is not designed around. Specialized hinted that most of my concerns might cease to exist with expected changes for 2013 models.
When I was hanging the Secteur up in my basement recently, I had a vision of a kid finding it in 15 or 20 years, dusting it off, tuning it up, and failing in love with cycling. Specialized nailed it with this one— a fast, comfortable bike at an affordable price, with enough practicability to bring it out of the recreation-only range. Those with visions of long charity rides, Gran Fondos, and other fast rides will not be disappointed with the Secteur.
By Eric McKeegan
Planet Bike continues to develop innovative products for the practical cyclist. Out of the profits made from selling those innovative products, Planet Bike donates 25 percent to grassroots bicycle advocacy groups—more than $1 Million to date. Walking the walk, for sure. Lets check out a few of their new items.
Blaze 2 Watt Micro Light
This $40 light makes 140 Lumens from a pair of AA batteries, all while being cheaper, lighter and smaller than the previous version. Modern LED technology has been good to us cyclists.
This new saddle has no fancy name, just two models, Pro and Comp. Designed to fill the gap between high-end race saddles and lower priced, over-stuffed saddles, the Pro and Comp share a perforated shell and cover, but little else.
The $58 Comp uses chromoly steel rails and foam and gel padding, the $75 Pro model gets Ti rails and thinner, all-gel padding. All those holes are designed to increase airflow and provide some vibration damping.
The Airsmith has a retractable hose to decrease stress on the valve stem while allowing you to get a better angle on the pumping action. The hose is Schrader valve compatible only—a Presta valve adaptor stores the handle. The composite Comp version is only $17, the alloy ALX goes for $25. Both include a water bottle boss mounting bracket.
WB200 Fork Mount Tray
Whispbar is Yakima’s more modern roof rack design, using lots of brushed aluminum and hidden hardware for better look with newer vehicles. The WB200 is a new bike tray with compatibility with both 9mm QR and 15mm axles. As someone who is constantly switching bikes, this is a very promising development.
The aluminum lever and axle for 9mm axles removes easily, the front cover flips up, a little switch is pushed down, and two 15mm axle stubs extend as the cover is closed. When not in use the tray can be removed in seconds, using a simple lever and cam system called QuickDock. A single lock secures the bike to the tray and the tray to the roof rack. This $250 tray will only work with the Whispbar system, no word yet if we’ll see a similar design compatible with Yakima’s older round bar system in the future.
Grand Cru Drillium 110 Crank
This is a classy looking crank—don’t even try to argue with me about it. Utilizing 48-34 chainrings in a 110mm BCD, these cranks will provide the performance most riders need with style to spare. The Grand Cru is forged and machined to its final shape, and the chainrings will work with any 6-10 speed drivetrain. Yes, there is a square taper BB interface under those dust caps, which will make many riders (myself included) happy. The $200 price tag isn’t too shabby, either.
Dajia Accessory Mount
This is a pretty ingenious device. It is adjustable to fit almost any 4 bolt stem, weighs very little, and is only $15. The accessory bar is a 31.8 plastic tube, perfect for mounting a headlight out of the way of that big GPS unit or smart phone on your handlebars. These are in stock now.
MyKick Balance Bike
Balance bikes are absolutely the best way to get kids on two wheels. Burley has long been a trusted name is kids trailers, and this MyKick balance bikes seems to be a natural extension of the product line.
With a steel frame, lightweight spoked wheels, and zero-maintenance solid tires, the MyKick should have not trouble handling the abuse these little bikes have to endure. The rubber grips even use oversize ends to prevent poking holes in your little one during a crash. It comes in three colors (red, pink, green) and is available now for $130.
By Eric McKeegan. Photos by Adam Newman
Lake boots spent a long time at the top of the heap for winter footwear, but some problems with the previous MXZ302 model and a withdraw from the U.S. market sent customers looking elsewhere.
Lake is now under new ownership and is back in the U.S., distributed by Stage Race. I’ve been lucky enough to be riding the new $280 MXZ303 boots, and am happy to report these are set to return Lake to the top spot for winter cycling.
Everyone knows toes get cold first, so the Thinsulate insulation in the toe box makes sense. The outer is Pittards leather, well known for its durability, breathability, and water resistance, although regular leather treatments are needed to keep it looking good and working well. I was pretty suspicious of the Outlast liner, the claims of trapping and releasing heat to regulate temperature sounded like hogwash to me. I was proven wrong though, with these boots working from single digit temps up into the 40s, depending on sock choice. Thanks NASA!
The cuff is now secured with a side release buckle with an adjustable strap, allowing for a snug fit to keep out the elements. The old cuff was always loose fitting, and the small Velcro closure quickly lost its holding power. The other problem area for the 302 model was the plastic heel cup. It was forever catching on cable stops and linkages, popping stitches and generally being an annoyance. The fix? It is gone, and I don’t miss it a bit.
High end cycling shoes have almost universally adopted the BOA dial closure system, and on high end racing shoes that are designed to be snug and supportive, the system has its merits. In cold weather, footwear needs to fit loosely enough to insure full circulation; the BOA makes it all too easy to get things too snug, resulting in cold feet. Standard laces and a cord lock would be both less expensive and better suited to this application.
Sizing seems to be a little smaller than the 302s. I’d recommend at buying at least a full size up, and I hope the wide widths become available again, I miss the toe wiggle room in my wide-model 302s.
The Vibram sole is grippy, sheds mud well, and allows for easy walking. In fact, other than wanting some arch support, these are some of the more comfortable shoes I own, and I usually don’t bother to remove them when I arrive at work. Normally I’d replace the insole to get that arch support, but the proprietary insulated insoles aren’t something I’m going to give up.
My typical off road ride in the woods is going to involve some walking or standing around. This quickly turns metal cleats into heat sinks, and my feet get cold in the MXZ303s, even with the fancy insoles. I’m temped to order a pair of Jazronaut insoles from the 45North Wolvhammer boots we reviewed recently, which claim to have even more space tech to keep feet insulated from cold cleats.
Overall I’m very happy with the improved MXZ303. I wasn’t a fan of the bright yellow graphics, but it seems that as taking care of itself as they are slowly peeling off. These may be the most versatile winter boots on the market, not as warm as the Wolvhammers, but won’t overheat you on those spring days when it is 38 and wet.Tweet